Theatre Hub




Hugh Jackman Goes Fishing for Love in ‘The River’ on Broadway: REVIEW

River

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Watching a fisherman means a lot of waiting around for something to happen. If that fisherman happened to be a strapping, Tony Award-winning movie star like Hugh Jackman, you may be very pleased to do just that. Sitting perched around director Ian Rickson’s intimate production of The River, a poetic but uneventful new play by Jez Butterworth (2011's acclaimed Jerusalem) that opened at Circle in the Square last night, feels a lot like looking at the surface of a stream, knowing the best bits are underneath, just out of reach.

River1To be fair, events do actually take place in The River, but mostly offstage, outside the confines of this remote, rustic cabin (from the actors’ mix of Australian, Irish and British accents, where exactly is unclear), or at another time the audience doesn’t see. The Man, as Jackman’s character is called in the program, has made a habit of bringing his lovers here to share with them his ultimate true love: fly fishing.

Over the course of the drama’s 90 minutes, we witness two such women (played by Cush Jumbo and Laura Donnelly) making this pilgrimage (at different times, of course), their scenes interspersed though their storylines follow the same path. How many women there have been, when they came or which came first remain open questions. We do know that the same tends to happen with each (a moonless, nocturnal trip to the water, fumbling first declarations of love) and that his conversations with them are substantively the same (history repeating, uncannily and with subtly sinister undertones).

River3There is, naturally, much passionate talk about fishing, much of it made to sound very compelling, thanks to a vivid and sensitive performance by Mr. Jackman. If your mind paints pretty pictures, Butterworth’s language has no shortage of superfluous color and detail. The Man’s passion, though, so clearly coursing through his aquatic oratories, is curiously (and conspicuously) absent in his relationships with both women.

Much like the play’s fishing, intimate moments between its characters don’t happen on stage; rather, they are referred to and described in the past tense (“Yesterday in this room after we made love”). Onstage, the pairs hardly touch. (He's an island!) Were their desire electric, this could well be hotter than any show of physical affection, but it isn’t. This can hardly be blamed on the production’s comely actors; both Ms. Jumbo and Ms. Donnelly are fine performers.

If the simplest of the play’s many conceits is (spoiler alert!) the women are the fish—migrating past as the man tries to connect with them—watching as they slip through his fingers is actually less exciting than the rush he describes of hooking and then losing hold of a wild trout. 

Recent theatre reviews...
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Cynthia Nixon Open in ‘The Real Thing’ on Broadway: REVIEW
Straight Couples Adrift on Fire Island in Terrence McNally’s ‘Lips Together, Teeth Apart’: REVIEW
Josh Radnor, Gretchen Mol Open in Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Disgraced’ on Broadway: REVIEW
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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: richard termine)


The New 'Into the Woods' Trailer Will Enchant You: VIDEO

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Disney today dropped a mega-trailer for its holiday blockbuster Sondheim-Lapine adaptation Into the Woods starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Billy Magnussen, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracy Ullman, and Johnny Depp.

And unlike the teaser, this one features singing.

The studio also dropped some character gifs like this one of Streep:

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The film is directed by Rob Marshall and adapted by Lapine and is scheduled for release on Christmas day.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "The New 'Into the Woods' Trailer Will Enchant You: VIDEO" »


See What a 6-Year-Old Theatre Critic Thought of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch': VIDEO

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Iain is a pint-sized theatre critic with a budding YouTube channel in which he reviews what he sees on Broadway. He has more than three dozen reviews under his belt.

Back in July, Iain posted a video because he was frustrated that he was being told Hedwig and the Angry Inch was not appropriate for children and that he couldn't see it.

Said Iain: "It's so hard to be a six-year-old kid who LOVES theatre!"

Well, someone finally came to their senses and Iain was finally allowed to see Hedwig, which now stars Dexter's Michael C. Hall. Iain posted his review just before Halloween.

So what did this 6-year-old think about a musical about an East German transgender rock star?

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "See What a 6-Year-Old Theatre Critic Thought of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch': VIDEO" »


Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Cynthia Nixon Open in ‘The Real Thing’ on Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Equal parts cerebral and sexy, Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play about love, deception and the limits of fiction gets a chic, starry revival from Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines theatre, where it opened on Broadway last night. With ace performances from the cast, director Sam Gold’s production anchors the lofty intellectual tangents of Stoppard’s writing in grounded, emotional drama.

Real thingThe opening scene shows a wife, Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon) returning home from a business trip to her drunk, jealous husband, Max (Josh Hamilton). She’s gone from London to Switzerland without her passport, Max discovers, leading him to conclude she’s cheating. The following scene reveals the first is from a play in which Charlotte and Max are performing—Charlotte is married to the playwright Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Max and his wife Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), also an actress, are close friends of the couple.

When Henry and Annie are left alone, we learn they’re having an affair and by the play’s more engrossing second act, the two have left their spouses and married each other. Much of the play is concerned with the nature of romantic love, the fallacy of monogamy and the challenges of writing. Henry is widely accepted as a stand-in for Stoppard as they share many parallels, including Stoppard’s relationship with a married woman, the actress who played Annie in the play’s original production.

Real thing3Making a bold (and impressively verbose) Broadway debut, McGregor does fine work making clear sense of Stoppard’s dense, heady dialogue, and the mischievous charm for which he’s known on-screen perfectly suits gallantly vain Henry. Ms. Gyllenhaal likewise makes a radiant Broadway debut as Annie, her easy sex appeal and unwavering poise a formidable match for her indomitable lover. Nixon, a stage vet who originated the role of Debbie (Charlotte and Henry’s daughter) in the play’s first Broadway production, gives an assured performance as sharp, unflappable Charlotte.

Some 30 years on, Stoppard’s play could easily be set in the present, but the design team’s nod to early 80s London style gives the production its seductive angles and textures, including a dynamic set by David Zinn, enviable costumes by Kaye Voyce and lighting by Mark Barton. 

Music is also central to the play, and Gold brings it to the fore with company sing-alongs during transitions between scenes. The device feels gimmicky in a play already chock-full of myriad ideas, but it's one Henry would probably love. 

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Straight Couples Adrift on Fire Island in Terrence McNally’s ‘Lips Together, Teeth Apart’: REVIEW
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Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing Open in ‘It’s Only a Play’ on Broadway: REVIEW
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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


Straight Couples Adrift on Fire Island in Terrence McNally’s ‘Lips Together, Teeth Apart’: REVIEW

Lips

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Fire Island lovers already nostalgic for summer will find themselves immediately transported upon entering Off Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre, where a revival of Terrence McNally’s 1991 play set in the idyllic Pines opened last night. The oceanfront deck (complete with infinity pool) is so lovingly rendered by designer Alexander Dodge, you can practically smell the sea-salt air and feel the cool relief of a cocktail against your lips. But don’t get too comfortable: The dream home’s occupants on this Fourth of July weekend are none too keen on the locals.

Lips3Sally (America Ferrera), a stymied artist with a 9-to-5, inherited the house from her brother, who recently died of AIDS. She and her staunchly salt-of-the-earth husband, Sam (Michael Chernus), are taking a holiday weekend away from their modest life in New Jersey to decide what to do with the property. Along for the stay are Sam’s moderately hyperactive sister Chloe (Tracee Chimo), a community theatre actress, and her husband John (Austin Lysy), a private school admissions director, who live a bit less modestly in Connecticut.

As they enjoy typical, leisurely distractions (the Times’ crossword, landscape painting, kite-flying, charades), audience-directed asides clue us into their inner conflicts and secrets. Sally is pregnant and fears another miscarriage; John has cancer; Sally and John once slept together; Chloe has an almost maniacal need to feel useful and Sam is, well, pretty much an open book. A dark cloud rolls in at the play’s outset, as Sally spots a man swimming purposefully straight out into the ocean. She has a sinking feeling he won’t return.

Lips2Neighbored on all sides by gay men, a group they neither understand nor accept, these are strangers in a strange but picture-perfect place. But it’s their isolation from each other, rather than their surroundings, that takes up McNally’s three-act story. Its focus on intimate drama allows the play’s subtler reflections on deeply rooted homophobia and AIDS panic to resonate all the more profoundly. The characters’ fear of mortality and desire to be known and loved parallel those of their gay neighbors, but most of them are too blind to see it—except for Sally, who wants so badly to try.

Director Peter Dubois does fine work bringing the play to a modern audience and orchestrating its talented cast. Chimoo is a standout as nutty, gabby Chloe, preening fearlessly like an exotic show bird confined to mundane, everyday life. As her younger brother, Chernus is a perfect fit, endearing us to Sam’s unassuming bluntness and rough edges, thus making his casual bigotry that much more bracing and uncomfortable. Lysy is likewise well suited to buttoned-up John, whose range of bottled feelings finds sly and often sudden outlets. As sullen, probing Sally, Ferrera brings a sweet earnestness that at times only skims the surface of Sally’s well of emotions rather than reaching for its depths.

Lips1For a play set on Fire Island during the AIDS crisis, McNally’s play is remarkably subtle (The Normal Heart it is not), and Dubois’ production lovingly embraces its characters, despite their flaws. Their narrow-minded anxieties may have sounded closer to ordinary in the early 90s, but now they take on a certain shocking sting, particularly for a New York audience. It’s a testament to how far we’ve traveled in 25 years. That they’re not altogether unfamiliar is a mark of how far we still have to go.

Recent theatre reviews...
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‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ Opens on Broadway: REVIEW
Political Sex Scandal Comedy ‘Tail! Spin!’ Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne Open in ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ on Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


'Oh Hell No!' Brings David Mixner's Riveting Political and Personal Tales to the NYC Stage

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(David Mixner, Point Foundation Executive Director Jorge Valencia, DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor, and actress Judith Light outside New World Stages theater: twitter the point foundation)

Political luminaries, LGBT personalities, and friends ranging from DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor to White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard filled the audience at New World Stages in New York City last night for Oh Hell No!, a night of engaging, often humorous storytelling and occasionally shocking remembrances from career activist and political firebrand David Mixner (also a friend and a contributor to this site) who in the past year has been to death's door and back, surviving a critical health scare in February. The show benefited The Point Foundation and raised more than $175,000 for the organization, which enables deserving LGBT students with scholarships and financial aid.

2_ohhellnoMixner's show (previewed in an interview I did earlier this week) took listeners on an emotional "personal journey...as [he] remember[s] it" in three parts. In addition to describing the formation of the nation's first LGBT political PAC MECLA (Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles) the first portion recounted his work at the time of Anita Bryant's well-known anti-gay crusade in 1978 to defeat California's Briggs Initiative, which would have put teachers in public schools on trial if they were accused of being gay. The successful routing of this awful piece of legislation involved a turning-point meeting with then Governor Ronald Reagan during which Mixner says he and a group of activists convinced Reagan that the legislation would lead to "anarchy" when any kid with a poor grade could simply take revenge by accusing their teacher of being gay.

The second part of Oh Hell No! descended into the dark, early days of the AIDS crisis describing how the Los Angeles community worked, Dallas Buyers Club-style, to shuttle illegal yet necessary drugs from Mexico. It also hit its emotional peak when Mixner, describing the horrific experience of seeing dozens of friends and loved ones "go into the hospital on Friday and die on Monday," confessed he and others, aided by allied medical professionals, were part of an underground euthanasia network - which helped gay men fill their requests to die when there was no hope left.

In part three, Mixner delivered a tough rebuke of President Bill Clinton's decisions to sign DOMA and implement the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy after breaking a promise to his longtime friend and confidante that one of his first acts as President would be to sign an executive order that would have allowed gays to serve openly in the military. The rift climaxed in Mixner's well-known and highly publicized arrest (with more than two dozen others) in front of the White House and a humiliating Advocate cover story in which the magazine declared him "Friend of Nobody". But the power of this portion of Oh Hell No! - as in the others - was delivered in the nuance. One portion of the White House arrest story that many may not have heard - told with a signature flourish of wit and innuendo - involved the cop who arrested him.

ArrestMixner says he demanded, jokingly, to his fellow arrestees, that he be arrested by the most attractive young cop in the group (seen directly behind him in this photo). But he didn't know what was coming. As Mixner was pushed into the police wagon, the cop whispered "Thank you, Mr. Mixner. My brother is gay." And also ran the paddy wagon siren (against White House rules) so that Clinton could hear the arrestees being driven away to jail.

Offered as an evening of entertainment and interspersed with musical performances by Will Reynolds, Sarah, Uriarte Berry, Megan Osterhaus, and Christopher Bolan serving to bridge its various sections, Oh Hell No!, as Mixner reminded those watching and wrote in the show's program, is a reminder that history "is an elusive animal...open to interpretation and revisionism."

"This evening I am telling stories from my personal journey," he added. "There are dozens, no thousands, of others who have given more or deserve more recognition. I hope I have somehow honored them..."

If we're lucky, the show, which was directed by Stephen Brackett and musically directed by Mat Eisenstein and deserves to be seen by a wide audience, will make it to video and/or broadcast.

Among those taking in the sold-out 90-minute show were Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank Fred Hochberg, DNC treasurer Andy Tobias, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, NYC Councilman Corey Johnson, Jane and Joe Clementi - the parents of the late Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, presenters Amy and Jeff Towers, MSNBC's Thomas Roberts, political consultant Bob Shrum and Marylouise Oates, photographer Nigel Barker, actor Alan Cumming, Athlete Ally's Hudson Taylor, political consultant and pundit Hilary Rosen, producer Bruce Cohen, actor Rory O'Malley, Broadway producer Hal Luftig, ESPN contributor LZ Granderson, author and blogger Kenneth Walsh, and actress Judith Light, a board member of the Point Foundation, who offered a gracious, poignant, and humorous introduction.

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(instagram mileage)


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